Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bob Heller's Philly WBB Small College Report: Streaks and Milestones Keep Coming

by Bob Heller (@Bob_Heller1)

A milestone week last week in area small college women’s basketball action as four players reached the 1,000 career points milestone…a third area team extended their winning streak to ten or more games while another played a Division I team…and the top area teams in both Division II and Division III continue to dominate.

  Over 40 games played amongst the area teams so let’s get started.

Four Area Players Reach 1,000 Career Points

Neumann University’s Nafisa Saunders and Lincoln University’s Teira Pendleton became the latest area women’s basketball players to score their 1,000th career point on Wednesday.  

  Saunders, a junior from Coatesville High School needed nine points to reach the mark against Immaculata on Wednesday and reached the mark in the second quarter on a free throw, capping a traditional three-point play.  The Knights went on to win 79-51.

Pendleton, a senior from Baltimore, Maryland also reached her 1,000th point via a free throw, connecting on the first of two three minutes into the second quarter in the Lions game against #4 Virginia Union University. She entered the game needing 12 points to become the seventh Lincoln player to reach 1,000 career points. The senior forward went on to score a team-high 19 points but the Lions fell 68-51, snapping the team’s seven game win streak.  

Two more players joined the 1,000 career point club on Saturday with another Neumann player, Lauren Legler (daughter of former LaSalle great Tim Legler) scoring her 1,000th point midway through the second quarter of the Knights big win, 87-45 over Notre Dame University of Maryland.

Rosemont’s Jasmyn Parker is the fourth area player last week to reach 1,000 career points.  The senior guard entered Saturday’s game against Cedar Crest College needing four points to become the ninth Rosemont player to reach the 1000 point plateau for their career.  She reached the mark with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter and went on to score a career-high 30 points in the Ravens 90-39 win.

We’ll have more on each of these games a bit later in the report.

West Chester Wins Tenth Straight in PSAC

West Chester University continues to win and Mia Hopkins continues to star as the Golden Rams defeated Pitt-Johnstown 78-68 on Wednesday and Bloomsburg 78-60 on Saturday to extend their winning streak to ten games. 

 WCU is now 15-4 overall and 12-3 in PSAC games, extending their PSAC East Division lead to two full games with the wins.

Hopkins earned ECAC Division II Player of the Week honors for her performance in the two games. The senior forward was dominant as she recorded a pair of double-doubles in the two Golden Ram victories. 

On the week Hopkins averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, while also being deadly from downtown at 66 percent on the week. In the win over UPJ, Hopkins was 4-for-11 from the field with 11 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, one steal and 10 points. Against Bloomsburg University, Hopkins was 8-for-15 from the field and 1-for-2 from downtown with 11 rebounds, four blocks, two assists, one steal and 18 points.

Staying within the PSAC, Cheyney University split their two games last week, defeating Mansfield University 69-63 on Wednesday before falling to East Stroudsburg 79-70 on Saturday.  

The win over Mansfield gave the Wolves a modest two game win streak.  Marlon Herring tied the game late in the fourth quarter and her layup with 1:05 left put the Wolves ahead to stay.  Herring finished with 14 points.  Takayla Ellis led CU with 21 points while Yasmine Dorrielan scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

The win streak was broken as East Stroudsburg handed the Wolves a 79-70 loss on Saturday.  The Wolves led early but fell behind midway through the first quarter and could never catch up.  Herring led the team with 15 points.  Dorrielan and Gianni Hill added 12 points apiece.

USciences and Jefferson Continue to Dominate in the CACC

In the CACC, two teams, Jefferson University and University of the Sciences are dominating the CACC South Division with identical 11-1 conference marks.  

‘Sciences won both games last week, including an exciting 66-56 crossover win over Caldwell University, the top team in the CACC North Division.  The Devils are 19-2 overall and have won 12 in a row.

Against regionally ranked Caldwell, the Devils did not take their first lead until the 8:37 mark of the fourth quarter and they closed out the game on a 16-3 flourish to earn the win.

  Alex Thomas led four Devils in double figures with 16 points.  Sarah Abbonizio and Jordan Vitelli had 15 apiece while Colleen Walsh chipped in ten.

Earlier in the week, the Devils cruised to a 71-42 win over Georgian Court University. Thomas again led the team with 19 points while Walsh and Laura Trisch had ten apiece.

Jefferson needed a last second layup from Jess Kaminski to keep pace with the Devils as the Rams hung on to defeat host Dominican College 63-62 in Orangeburg, New York on Saturday.  

Kaminski led the team with 17 points and ten rebounds.  Jefferson trailed by as many as six in the final 2:30 of the game but battled back to take a lead with 16 seconds left on a pair of Alynna Williams free throws.  

DC retook the lead at 62-61 with two free throws of their own before Kaminski’s game-winner.  Williams finished with 10 points while Rachel Day added 14.

On Wednesday, the Rams held off a late rally by host Chestnut Hill College as they hung on for a 74-71 win.  Erin Maher led the Rams with 20 points while Beverly Kum and Kaminski had 17 and 14 respectively.  Jaeda Wildgoose led Chestnut Hill with 22 points while Shannon Glenn chipped in 18 points.

Chestnut Hill got back on the winning track with an 80-64 win over Concordia on Saturday.  Vicky Tumasz led all players 24 points.  Chestnut Hill in now 13-8 overall and 9-3 in CACC games.

Holy Family split their two games last week, defeating Wilmington 67-63 before losing on Saturday to Bloomfield 66-56. The Tigers are 7-13 overall and 6-6 in league play.

Anjalai Hayes led the Tigers with 12 points in the loss at Bloomfield. Katie O’Hare led four players in double figures with 14 points in the Tigers four-point win over the Wildcats.  

Casey Schweitzer added 13 points while Hayes and Elizabeth Radley had 12 and 10 respectively.

Lincoln Streak comes to an End

And rounding out the Division II section of the report we have Lincoln University who saw their seven game winning streak come to an abrupt end with a 68-51 loss to #4 Virginia Union.  Pendleton led the Lions with 19 points and added nine rebounds.  Brianna Logan chipped in ten points.

Chowan University handed the Lions their second straight loss72-60 on Saturday.  

Pendleton again fell one rebound shy of a double-double with 12 points and nine boards.  She was the only Lions player in double figures.  Lincoln falls to 12-6 overall and 7-3 in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) games.

Top Teams in the CSAC Continue to Win…

In the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) the four top teams won all of their conference games last week to maintain their positions in the league standings.

Gwynedd Mercy University, the top team in the CSAC North defeated Keystone College 66-52 on Monday, handily defeated Cedar Crest 67-37 on Wednesday and cruised to a 70-40 win over Cairn University on Friday to improve to 9-1 in league play and extend their winning streak to seven games.  

The Griffins made a season-high 15 three-pointers in their blowout win over Cairn.  Susan Bossler had four of those enroute to a team high 16 points.  Bianca Adams made three from deep and finished with 12 points.

  In all, 12 different Griffin players scored at lead one basket against Cairn. Kendra Stum, Peyton Emrick and Jana Goodman had seven points apiece to lead Cairn.

Against Cedar Crest, 14 different players scored with Chyanne Fine and Olivia Roseman leading the way with ten points apiece.  

Four players reached double figures in Monday night’s win over Keystone. Bossler and Juliana Hoisington led all players with 15 points apiece.  Adams and Larissa Leyes added 12 apiece.

The Griffins closed out a busy week by taking on Division I University of Pennsylvania at the historic Palestra in West Philadelphia. 

 GMU kept the game close in the first quarter before the Quakers started to pull away eventually earning an 89-25 win and snapping the Griffins win streak. 

 Shannon Carroll and Denise Sacco led the team with six and five points respectively.

Cabrini University, the top team in the CSAC South extended their winning streak to 15 games with decisive victories over Cairn (72-51) on Wednesday and Centenary (63-32) on Saturday. 

 The Cavaliers are 17-2 overall and 10-0 in CSAC games.

Sabrina Hackendorn and Lexi Edwards led the Cavaliers with 17 and ten points respectively in their win over Cairn.  Aigner Bookard led Cairn (7-11, 2-8 CSAC) with 12 points.  

Cabrini led wire-to-wire except for a brief tie at 2-2 in the first quarter.   Nomi Washington had 15 points to pace the Cavaliers in their win over Centenary.

Cabrini and Gwynedd Mercy will meet on Wednesday, January 31 in a battle of the top two division leaders in the CSAC.

Neumann University meanwhile kept pace with the Cavaliers with wins over Immaculata (79-51) and Notre Dame (Md.) (87-45). The Knights are now 14-5 overall and 9-12 in CSAC contests.  

Minika Glenn recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Notre Dame.  Nafisa Saunders added 11 points.  Nicole Sipp and Kristin Denocour had ten points apiece.  All 13 Neumann players scored at least two points in the win.

Glenn also led the Knights with 20 points in the win over Immaculata.  Lauren Legler added 16 while Saunders chipped in 15.  Immaculata (4-16, 3-8 CSAC) was led by Theresa Kearney’s 13 points.  Annie Kohutka added 11 points.

Rosemont meanwhile totaled 185 points in their two wins last week, defeating Notre Dame (Md.) 95-49 and Cedar Crest 90-39.  The Ravens improved to 13-7 overall and 7-4 in league games.

Jasmyn Parker had a career high 30 points against Cedar Crest while all ten players on the roster ended up in the scoring column.  Ke’alohilani Naone-Carter and Kira Lewis added ten points apiece.

The Ravens outscored Notre Dame 33-5 in the first quarter and never looked back.  Naone-Carter led the team with 23 points while her sister Leilani Naone-Carter chipped in 14.  Lewis added 11 points while Jayme Byers came off the bench to score ten points.

Haverford Streaking in the Centennial…

In the Centennial Conference, Haverford continues their strong play, extending their winning streak to six games with victories over Bryn Mawr College (64-22), Ursinus (65-43) and Dickinson (61-56).  The Fords are 16-3 overall and 12-2 in league games.

The Dickinson game was by far the closest of the three.  The Red devils erased an 11-point Haverford lead in the third quarter and led by one entering the final period and led by two, 56-54 with just four minutes left in the game.

  Julianna Clark followed with a three point field goal and following a Dickinson turner added a layup for a three point Haverford lead.  She then added two free throws to round out the scoring. Samantha Wetzel and Sierra Berkel led the Fords with 18 and 10 points respectively.

Macy Goldbach led the Fords in their blowout win over Ursinus with 16.  Berkel and Wetzel added12 points apiece.  Lydia Konstanzer led Ursinus (9-11, 6-9 CC) with 12 points.

Berkel recorded her fourth double-double of the season as Haverford opened the week with a 64-22 win over Bryn Mawr College. 

 The senior scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds and was the lone Haverford player to reach double figures.  In all 11 different Haverford players put points on the scoreboard.  Halena Martin led Bryn Mawr (1-17, 0-14 CC) with seven points.

Ursinus meanwhile dropped games to Johns Hopkins (70-51) and #16 Muhlenberg (89-55) in addition to the Haverford loss to finish the week at 9-11 overall and 6-9 in league play.

Konstanzer recorded a double-double against Hopkins with 15 points and 11 rebounds while Aaliyah Stephens chipped in 13 points.

  Against the nationally ranked Mules, the Bears offense struggled in the first half while the Mules was clicking, building a 51-20 margin at the break before finishing with the 30-point win.  Konstanzer led the Bears with 18 points.

MAC Roundup…

Over in the MAC, Delaware Valley Universality was the bright spot in the MAC Freedom, winning both of their conference games last week. 

 On Wednesday the Aggies defeated eastern University 67-50 and followed that up with a 67-61 win over Wilkes to even their conference record at 4-4.  The Aggies are 7-12 overall.

Danielle Skedzielewski led the Aggies with 19 points against Wilkes.  Ashley Smink added 13 while Amber Grohowski chipped in ten. 

 The Aggies led by three at the half and used a 10-2 run in the third quarter to build a nine point lead.  A 12-5 run to start the fourth quarter gave DelVal their biggest lead of the day 59-46 before Wilkes rallied to close within two with 46 seconds left, 63-61.  

Skedzielewski added a basket and later a free throw as DelVal scored the final four points to seal the win.

Smink led four players in double figures in the win over Eastern with 15 points.  Monica Smallwood and Lauren Morretti chipped in 14 and 13 respectively while Grohowski added ten.  

The Aggies used a 12-0 run in the second quarter to build a double digit lead and led by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter.   Eastern was led scoring-wise by Viki Kneis’ 10 points.

Eastern played a hard fought first half against DeSales, trailing by only four at the break, 23-19.  DeSales’ offense came alive in the third quarter, outscoring the Eagles 23-9 as they pulled away with a 60-33 win. 

 Regie Robinson had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead Eastern (4-15, 1-7 MAC Freedom).

Arcadia suffered losses to Albright College (72-50) and Messiah College (75-45) to fall to 8-12 overall and 3-8 in MAC Commonwealth contests.

Taylor Dunn led the Knights against nationally ranked Messiah, scoring eight points. Messiah built a 20-point lead at halftime 34-14 and pulled away as the game wore on in the second half for the 30-point win.

Taylor Fritz had a double-double (12 points, ten rebounds) while Dunn and Kylie Fischer added ten points apiece in the loss to Albright, which outscored the Knights 23-6 in the opening quarter and never looked back the rest of the way. 

 Arcadia closed the gap in the final quarter, outscoring Albright 16-10 to make the final score 72-50.

Widener dropped their only contest of the week, falling at home to Lycoming, 64-49.  The loss drops their record to 9-10 overall and 3-7 in MAC Commonwealth contests.  Devan Rimmer led the Pride with 16 points.  Allison Gallagher grabbed ten rebounds.

In the NJAC…

Over in New Jersey, Rutgers-Camden scored a big win last week, defeating Rowan University 82-77.  The Scarlet Raptors rallied from a 13-point to earn just their second win in their last six tires against the Profs.

Gabby Greene led four Scarlet Raptor players in double figures with 22 points.  Michelle Obasi and Cara Racobaldo added 17 points apiece.  Lajerah Wright chipped in 12 points.

The Profs held a comfortable ten point lead 63-53 early in the fourth quarter when a 13-4 run by the Scarlet raptors closed the gap to 67-66 with 4:48 left.

 Rowan pushed the lead back to five 73-68 with 2:27 left before two quick scores tied the game. Greene sank a three-pointer with 1:34 left to give the Scarlet raptors the lead for good.

Olivia Rulon led Rowan with 26 points (8-12 from three-point range). Dominique Peters added 14 while Summer Crilley chipped in 12.

The Scarlet Raptors also defeated Rutgers-Newark, 60-52 to end the week with two wins.  Rowan ended the week with a tough 72-66 loss to nationally ranked Montclair State.

Racobaldo and Wright had 13 points apiece to pace the Scarlet Raptors in their win over Rutgers-Newark.  The Scarlet Raptors are now 8-5 in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games and 11-8 overall.

Rowan’s loss to Montclair drops their record to 11-8 overall and 8-5 in league play, moving into a three-way tie for fourth in the NJAC standings with Rutgers-Camden and William Paterson.  Peters led the Profs with 18 points while Crilley chipped in 11.  

The College of New Jersey saw its modest three-game win streak snapped with a 68-45 loss to Stockton.  The Lions also recorded a pair of wins over New Jersey City University, 89-19 and 95-32.  

TCNJ sits in second place in the conference standings behind Montclair State with a 10-5 conference mark and a 15-5 overall record.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mike Siroky’s SEC Report: South Carolina Gets Revenge

By Mike Siroky

 The Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball continued to be competitive, with Tennessee staying in free fall  and South Carolina having fun in a revenge win.

Another league team was welcomed to the Associated Press top 25, making it six ranked teams.

 No. 2 Mississippi State

The Bulldogs celebrated the program’s all-time highest ranking at home
in StarkVegas against rebuilding Florida, 90-53.

Sometimes the best team in the best conference makes it look easy.

One reason this season is junior transfer Roshunda Johnson, quietly rounding out the starting five in her second season after transferring from two years at another ranked program, Oklahoma State.

Mississippi State was not even in her final choices list. Kentucky and Tennessee were.

 She is another Arkansas native – with Jordan Danberry -- to find a welcoming home in StarkVegas, drawing weekly praise from coach Vic Schaefer.

By the 12-point halftime advantage, Blair Schaefer delivered 4-of-6 3s and the other usual suspect, Victoria Vivians, had 13. 

Johnson had seven rebounds, six defensive. She finished with seven points and nine rebounds.

At the end, it was Teaira McCowan’s 23 points that had the most impact.

 State is 21-0 for the first time in program history.

"It's just so much fun when you have nights like this when your team finds you," Schaefer said. "It's basically up to the defense on who to guard, so every night, it can be someone different."

McCowan hit 9 of 13 from the field and added eight rebounds and two blocks. Vivians scored 17. The Bulldogs had 48 points in the paint, 67 percent from the field in the second half. Schaefer finished with 15.

“You just tell her to stand over their on the wing and she opens up the floor for everyone else because they have to go guard her,” Schaefer said of his daughter. “She’s shooting the ball at a really high level.

“I just want to compliment my team,” Vic Schaefer said. “It's extremely hard to do what they’re doing. 

“In the second half, defensively, we were really good. Fourteen forced turnovers in the second half. Thirty-six points in the paint in the second half. Our defense really turned into offense.”

They drew 6,727.

The crosstate trip to complete the sweep of Ole Miss was uneventful, a ninth win in a row in the series. The seniors matched the program record for four-year players at 111.

Ole Miss hit 1-of-18 to start in a 19-4 quarter and it was decidedly over already, a program-record 22nd straight win, 69-49.

Vivians scored 25 on 10-of-18 from the field, even though she and McCowan spent most of the afternoon in foul trouble. McCowan grabbed 10 rebounds in 17 minutes.

“Proud at how we played in the first half,” coach Schaefer said. “We had to overcome some foul trouble and we did just that. Zion Campbell played her heart out today. She gave us 23 minutes, important minutes. In the first quarter, we allowed four points, and when you do that, you are locked in on the defensive end.

“Disappointed at how we played in the second half. Our mindset, mentality was not where it needed to be to win an SEC championship.”

They remain up on everyone else in the league. Their only game this week is at Missouri.

No. 9 

South Carolina

Carolina had lowly Arkansas and then No. 11 Missouri in a revenge game. But UConn looms this week, followed a few days later by Mississippi State.

Still. A’ja Wilson is back as a starter after turning her ankle. She responded with her 13th double/double, 27 points, 13 rebounds with seven blocks and Arkansas suffered her show,  90-42, especially a 25-6 opening quarter and a 19-6 second. SC kept pace with Mississippi State.

Wilson paused to be honored in pre-game for reaching 2,000 career points. Her rebounds in this one, meant 1,000 rebounds. She is the second in program history with that many.

Alexis Jennings had her fifth double-double this year with 22 points on 9-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds.

Wilson is from Hopkins close to campus. She accepts these longevity records, especially at home. “That'’ always a great thing,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s bittersweet because I know I’m on my way outta  here.

“Y’all got a good team here,” first-year Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “Is that the understatement of the night?”

“We know what our strength are,” said SC coach Dawn Staley. “We played to that underneath. We know what to do when we get the ball in the guards’ hands. (Wilson) knows what to do. She has bulked up in the weight room. She is very strong.”

“I’m taking it all in,” Wilson said. “But my main focus is my teammates. They’re helping me, they’re uplifting me each and every day.”

So onto the fun game with No. 11 Mizzou. The Tigers had a very unbalanced advantage in free throws at their place, Wilson was fouled out and Staley ejected. The call came loudly for better refereeing, sort of like apologizing after being caught in a crime.

A’ja Wilson was fettered with unfair fouls then. Not at home. They hit 17-of-24; Missouri 3-of-6. Payback of the most unkind.

Missouri players were not allowed to talk to reporters afterwards.

SC hit 67 percent of its first-quarter shots.

And Wilson, not handicapped with fouls, scored 15 in the 64-54 win. Two Tigers were ejected.

The Gamecocks closed on a 15-5 run. Missouri missed eight of its final nine shots, SC ended a 49-49 tie with 4:32 to play with 3-of-4 shooting over the ensuing two minutes.

In the second quarter, when Missouri's Kayla Michael locked up with Jennings two Missouri scrubs, Jordan Roundtree and Nadia Green were ejected for coming off the bench to join the the fun.

The crowd of more than 13,000 rarely let the Tigers forget their anger about the earlier defeat. 

They booed Tigers star Sophie Cunningham nearly every time she touched the ball. The Missouri junior found her way into the tussle, first getting shoved by South Carolina's Doniyah Cliney, then bumping Jennings hard with her shoulder as she walked off the court.

The lack of class cost her an unsportsmanlike foul, after officials reviewed the tape.

Cunningham led Missouri with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Wilson said the Gamecocks treated this game like every other one. Staley said her players studied film of their last two matchups -- Missouri wins -- and knew they'd take some shots. 

''They just don't want to go into a game unprotected,'' Staley said. ''Our first thing is making sure everyone's OK.''

Cunningham even bumped Wilson as the teams left the court. Maybe if Mizzou wins more than one SEC tournament game, all the bravado will mean something.

''It's all love and game,'' Wilson said, smiling.

Tyasha Harris scored 19 for South Carolina, which won its fourth straight, while Wilson had a game-best 15 rebounds for her 13th game with double figure points and rebounds this season. 

The two-time defending SEC player of the year also had four blocks.

 “I mean that is what great players do,” Staley said of Harris. “When there is a player down they step up, and she  is no different.  I had no worries that she would not step up today and score points for us.  

“It's just that she needed some help, but I think that she understands that she has to keep her game honest.  Twenty one shots isn't her comfort zone – but she took her open shots, and that is only going to help her get even better.”  

Jennings scored all seven of her points during a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, shooting 2-of-3 from the field and 3-of-4 from the line. She also added two steals in the final period.

In an interesting NCAA ruling, the NCAA turned down South Carolina’s request that Tennessee transfer Te'a Cooper should play this season instead of sitting out per the governing body's transfer rules because Cooper missed last season with the Lady Vols due to a knee rebuild.

 Cooper will have two seasons to play for the Gamecocks, starting next fall. Staley is waiting for an NCAA explanation.

No. 10 Tennessee

The Lady Vols hung in the top of the rankings despite losing three of four games against ranked teams. They have yet to get back to work solidifying a good NCAA draw.

They allowed an energetic Ole Miss to hang around for three quarters then showed what they have most of the season: This team knows how to close, an 18-15 fourth in a 75-6 win.

 Last season, they allowed this foe to win, giving them a publicity highlight.

Anastasia Hayes opened the final quarter with a 3, Jamie Nared scored three the old-fashioned way. Rennia Davis took a defensive rebound and flashed it to Evina Westbrook, who fed it right back for a layup. Nared had a steal then was fouled and made one.

 Hayes hit another layup, then a 3 on a feed from Nared, then a layup from Davis’ assist. Westbrook made the edge 16 with a free throw and they coasted home.

Nared had 15 with 10 rebounds and four assists.  Davis had 18, 6-of-8 from the field and the line with eight rebounds. Mercedes Russell did her 13 points’ damage in the first three quarters. Hayes brought the expected and necessary 16 off the bench.

Tennessee is 10-1 at home, 17-3 overall, entertaining 9,016 fans.

“At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have to default to a zone,” said Nared. “We should be able to play good one-on-one defense. We just have to work on it."

“We got a little hesitant and a little timid when we got in foul trouble," coach Holly Warlick said. “We can’t get ourselves in that situation.

“I'm going to play whatever helps us win,” Warlick said. “I always want to play man-to-man, but I can be a great 40-minute zone coach if it’s going to help us win. My biggest thing is just communicating and effort.”

LSU is one of those teams which seems to rise above its mediocrity against UT. Maybe it is because it is coached, for now, by one of Warlick’s former players and assisted, for now, by former Pat Head associate Mickie DeMoss, a program closer.

Nared started the Bayou Bash 3-for-3 with three rebounds. It is usually good for UT when she starts hot. All the starters scored. It was 18-13 after one.

Russell took the offense in the second quarter. Westbrook had five assists. Each side scored 13 in a mundane second quarter. Warlick cycled in four reserves.

Then disaster. UT came up with but eight third-quarter points and LSU was on its way to a 70-59 win. The Lady Vols have fallen in four of the past six contests, all too reminiscent of last season’s late game collapses. Russell finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but everyone eels was below average.

LSU outrebounded Tennessee, the No. 4 rebounding team in the nation, by 44-32 and held Tennessee almost 23 points below its scoring average. Surely now out of the Top 10, UT is sixth in conference eliminated from contention.

“We didn’t respond,” said Nared. “They were the tougher team.”

“We were just stagnant ion offense,” said Russell.

“They were gritty, they were tougher . . . they just outworked us,” said Warlick.

How often can she and others say they will learn from these type of games before the listeners quit believing it is more than hot air?

“It took everyone committing to rebounds, to not give up when we missed,” said LSU coach Nikki Fargas. “We told the guards to get the ball off the glass. We did not focus on one player.”

Yes there is a month to go. Maybe the rookies are tired, but coaching is failing, especially to a LSU.

This week starts with a revenge game vs. A&M. The Aggies hit 21-of-26 free throws in an overtime win at their place. Tennessee was only awarded 11 free throws (and hit nine) . There is unlikely to be such a  blatant imbalance in Knoxville.

No. 15 Texas A&M

The slow and steady Aggies are home for LSU and at Vanderbilt.

LSU actually was a come-from-behind win, but Anriel Howard’s 21 points and 14 rebounds were enough to lead A&M, 69-59.

The Aggies trailed by four to start the second half. LSU is once again in danger of missing a 20-win season, despite inclusion in the projection by the four-letter network.

Howard’s effort is her program-record 24th career double/double. She was 7-of-9 from the field and had three assists without a turnover.

 Four Aggies hit in double figures, including rookie Chennedy Carter, for the 21st consecutive game.

A&M moved to 16-5 before 3,506 fans.

 “Things do not come easy to this team,” said coach Gary Blair.

“We started the game following the game plan and threw it completely out the window with the turnovers by my guards in the first half. We showed them exactly the zone they were going to run, but we tried to force it. Everybody became a ‘Jumpshot Judy’ early instead of continuing working the ball inside to (Khaalia) Hillsman. 

“We could’ve fouled out their whole team. We have a problem of making four to five passes against a zone defense. We want to score on two to three passes. We shouldn’t worry about who gets the assist as long as it’s a teammate and we move the ball around like we did in the third quarter. 

“Going in at half, we had to have a little bit of a revival. Finally, with seven and a half minutes left on the clock I said that’s all I got for y’all. It’s on y’all. I thought our kids responded, a lot by the leadership of Howard during that ball game. She’s my captain. She’s my leader out there on the court. She has a voice, and the kids listen. 

“Until we become a little bit more team-oriented when we are facing defenses like we are facing, the same thing could rear its head again. We are going to see a lot of zone. I was proud of how the kids took coaching and adjustments into halftime. Danni (Williams) found her stroke. 

“Chennedy started moving the ball, and we only turned the ball over three times in the whole second half, and I thought that was the difference in the game. 

“Last year, we beat them by two here and lost over there. It’s a rivalry. I enjoy playing them. We could have made it a lot easier on ourselves. Give their guards credit. They hit the shots they had to have. We are 5-2. That’s exactly where we were this time last year. Now what direction do we go? 

“I am playing five to six players, and all of them are shooting, even Kayla Wells and Lulu (McKinney). I don’t think they’ve missed a free throw all year. They have to shoot 100 free throws each week, and we have everything up on the board. It’s sort of a race to see what percentages we can get. 

“Our good free-throw shooters are shooting 90 something percent. I concentrate on it. Here’s the thing, we shot 11 free throws last year against them in two games, so you could see where I wanted to go. We were able to draw some fouls.”

 He praised Jasmine Lumpkin.

“Lumpkin was everywhere. Give the kid credit. She is one of my captains. She is good in the locker room. She is a good kid and going to graduate on time. She’s very special. She is what you call a team player, a role player. She does her job, and she’s getting more and more confidence as people are laying off of her.

 “Sometimes you’re open for a reason, and she starts hitting the shots. I want her to drive and keep getting to the free throw line like she’s doing. She doesn’t shoot the three, but she does everything else for us.

“We were able to win the game and not play our best. That’s because of the home crowd and because I’ve got a lot of talent. Once my team recognizes their talent, gets five people involved in the offense and spreads it around, we’re going to be a very good basketball team. We still ended up with four people in double figures and the other one had nine, so that’s pretty good. We are going to take it and move on.”

Howard said, “Our coaches chewed us out at halftime. They were short and sweet, but they were intense. We knew we weren’t giving our best efforts in the first half, so we came back ready to play. Probably the shortest halftime (talk) since I’ve been here.

“Tonight we had to be more of an inside-out team. Obviously our shots weren’t going in the first half. They weren’t the best shots. Once we got on the inside, our game started to flow a little bit more. Our inside presence is pretty powerful.”

Senior Center Hillsman said, “We were sometimes being a little selfish with the ball. When the defense was taking something away, we were shooting it anyway instead of looking for the open person. Anriel was a warrior on the board as usual and that helps.”

Carter continued to dominate as no A&M rookie ever has, 11-of-20 at Vandrbilt in the 91-67 win that keeps the Aggies in that group of only two conference losses. They have won six of seven.

Carter had her average 21, Wiliams 18, Hillsman 16 and Howard a dozen Lumpkin led the 43-re bound effort with 13. Doesn’t everyone welcome a trip to Nashville just about now? 
Carter said a lifetime of preparation leads to this.

“My dad made ne work out,” she said. I did dribbling drills on the grass. I did hours on the same thing I had to be able to dribble the ball. I just take what they give me.

“We have a lotta depth and this wasn’t even the best we ever played.”

No. 21 Georgia

We projected the ‘Dawgs return to the national poll by matching 17-2, 5-1 records with incoming No. 11 Missouri. Just outside the Top 20 is a good start for a sixth league  team.

Phase One of rebuilding after not even making the eliminations last season is done. Georgia had already matched the previous season’s win total and it was still January.

Now the struggle to stay relevant this month.

Earlier, they had won at A&M, the seventh win against ranked teams since Joni Taylor took over.

Senior forward Mackenzie Engram had scored 20 points or more in three straight, a personal best against a 13.5 average. Caliya Robinson reached double figures in all but one SEC game and leads Georgia at 7.7 rebounds per game. 

When Georgia defense holds the opponent to less than 40 percent from the field (15 of 19) they are 15-0. 

Missouri, of course, had other ideas The ’Dawgs started well, a 19-13 first, Then losing the second quarter by one. The Tigers posted a defensive stand in the third, 12-8.

Obviously both defenses were tuned in. Freshman guard Que Morrison stepped up with 14 points  and senior guard Haley Clark had 10, with no 3s between them. Robinson and Engram were trying to find their range.

Which team could finish better?

Georgia answered with a 22-11 fourth and its 18th win, 62-50, at once overcoming that single-digit demon and rewarding its 2,668 fans. Morrison scored a career-best 17, Clark 14 and Robinson stayed on her double-digit conference effort with 13. 

Georgia forced 18 turnovers, matching Missouri’s most in conference play, and second-highest on the season. Sure enough, Mizzou hit but 27 percent from the field as the defense showed well again.

 “That was one of our keys for the game,” Taylor said. “They are very talented offensively but we thought that we could bother them with our defensive pressure. (sophomore guard) Taja Cole and (freshman guard) Gabby Connally set the tone and made it really difficult for them.

“Every night it is a different player and that is the beauty of this team,” Taylor said. “That is what I appreciate, everyone is ready to go. All of their buckets are huge and everyone answers the call every time.”

This is the most wins to start a season since the  2009-10 season when that team began the year 20-2. 

At Florida, success continued. Engram and Robinson combined for 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lady Bulldogs, 66-57. 

That made up for a five-point second quarter.

The  8-0 road record is the team’s best start away from home since the 1994-95 NCAA Final Four Team began that year 11-0 on the road.  

The six straight SEC games was the best since 2010-11. Florida hit 38 percent from the floor.

Georgia leads the league in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 34.1 percent shooting from the field. The Lady Bulldogs also pace the conference in both blocks (136 total, 6.8 per game) and assists (342 total, 17.1 per game). 

The Lady Bulldogs trailed by as many as 10 points in the third, before Engram and Robinson exploded and the team scored 31 in the fourth. Robinson finished with a game-high 22 and seven rebounds, the seventh time in eight SEC games she has reached double figures. 

Engram finished with 13. She will hit 1,000 career with four more. 

“We go from scoring five points in the second quarter to 31 in the fourth, and I think that tells you a little about the flow of this game,” Taylor said. “This was a good lesson for us. We were not locked in like we have been during our shootaround, and it showed. Cam does a great job with his team and they made it tough on us today. If not for Simone Costa and Maya Caldwell down the stretch, I am not sure we are able to win this game.” 

The Bulldogs head to LSU.

Trend: Just as has happened last season. Alabama avoided a chance at a 20-win season by losing at Auburn. It still can be the seventh league team (with the Top 25 teams) gifted again for the NCAA tournament. There are not six wins left on the Tide’s schedule.

For the second straight season, No 11 Missouri has declined to participate in our coverage.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Guru Report: Drexel Late Rally Erases 10-Point Deficit to Top Elon 58-56 While Villanova Blasts Xavier

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Mark the Drexel women’s 58-56 fourth-quarter comeback win Friday night over defending Colonial Athletic Association tourney champion Elon here at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center as one of the more worthy accomplishments by the program in conference regular season competition.

Coach Denise Dillon’s group earned a piece of history with the outcome by having enjoyed the best fourth-quarter rally — they were down ten — in the three seasons since the NCAA moved from 20-minute halves to four ten-minute quarters.

Should Drexel (15-5, 7-1 CAA) complete a sweep of homecoming weekend with a win Sunday (2 p.m.) over Northeastern (10-9, 4-3), which dispatched host Delaware 64-53 Friday night at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, the Dragons will go a long way toward landing second or third in the final standings.

Dillon’s squad has now expanded its second-place slot to two games ahead of Delaware and Northeastern, which are tied for third, and the Dragons are three games in front of Hofstra and William & Mary following Friday’s games.

James Madison remains ahead of Drexel at the top of the CAA with a perfect 8-0 conference mark and 12-7 overall after beating Hofstra 73-56 at home Friday night in the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va.

Furthermore, the CAA tourney is here at Drexel this season, the same March 7-10 weekend that the second annual Ivy men’s and women’s tourney (March 10-11) will return down the street to Penn’s Palestra.

If you’re a fan just of the women, though there is a two-day overlap — the first of which is the Ivy pressers and shootarounds — we believe the two events are not in conflict but your Guru will update.

Meanwhile, as far as the way it went here, Drexel had to deal with a significant size disadvantage but that was compensated over the way the Dragons could match up with Elon (12-7, 4-4) in terms of playing with heart.

“It was a good win,” Dillon stated the obvious. “Like I told the girls, we were down, we chipped away, the defense once again was key. Definitely proud of the resilience and determination for these guys to stick together and find a way.”

It was a game of runs with eight ties and six lead changes but the excitement intensified after Elon went up 52-42 with 7 minutes, 2 seconds left in the game after Drexel entered the final period down by just a bucket at 42-40.

The Dragons then took off on a 10-2 spurt to get back to within a basket with 4:06 left in regulation and after almost a scoreless minute by both squad,  freshman Hannah Nihill out of Cardinal O’Hara zipped a three-ball for a 55-54 lead that could have been even more though Drexel never trailed again.

On the shot away from the ball Bailey Greenberg was fouled but missed both attempts. However,  the Dragons still had a chance on the possession getting an offensive rebound but after three straight misses the Phoenix finally got the ball.

But Elon then turned it over with 1:59 left. Drexel’s Sarah Woods rebounded her own missed shot and got it to Aubrey Brown for a layup with 1:13 left, though a missed free throw enabled Elon to stay within range.

Elon’s 6-3 senior center Malaya Johnson, who dominated the night with 20 points and seven rebounds, hit a jumper to cut the Drexel advantage to a point with 57 seconds left.

Drexel’s Greenberg missed a jumper with 34 seconds left, Johnson grabbed a rebound and Elon took a 30-second timeout and then another one with 14 seconds left when the Phoenix were in danger of losing the ball.

After the inbound the ball skipped off Johnson, the way at times an inadvertent fumble in football occurs, and the ball went straight into hands of Nihill.

Drexel took time and then Kelsi Lidge was fouled with eight seconds left but made only the first of her two attempts to make the score 58-56 and Johnson got the rebound.

Going inside for the tie, however, the ball rimmed off and Drexel’s hold on second place in the CAA had gotten stronger.

“We do a really great job of coming together and playing with a sense of urgency, but not going chaotic on offense and defense,” Lidge said.  “We focus on one possession at a time, getting a score and getting back into the game.”

Nihill, who had another triplet early in the game, said of her shot, “I think just shoot it and the other seniors say that every shot that goes up, if you think goes in, it will,” Nihill said.

Dillon said her team was trying to take advantage of the switches Elon was making. 

“Too often, the ball was dying in our hands. But we thought being a game of possessions, we were able to increase our possessions without turning the ball over and we did that fairly early and would give us an opportunity to win.”

One key was Drexel was able to get to the line and outscored Elon 12-17 on attempts compared to just 3-5 for the Phoenix. Forcing 20 turnovers the Dragons were able to outscore the opposition 27-11 in transition.

With Johnson’s work, Elon outscored Drexel 40-18 inside the paint.

The only other Elon player in double figures was Shay Burnett with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Lidge had 17 points  — 14 in the second half - and eight rebounds, while Greenberg and Woods each scored 11 points.

Speaking of the team’s resilience, which has occurred in several other games, Dillon noted, “For a player like Kelsi it’s persuasion and perseverance.

“And it has trickled down to her teammates.  What she is telling the team is an extension of us,” Dillon said.

  “It is one possession at a time, get a stop and we will take advantage on the other end.  They are going to give themselves a chance, get a shot, get a rebound and give ourselves another chance.  When they are on the same page, that’s all that matters.”

Delaware Falls to Northeastern

The Blue Hens slipped into a third-place tie with the opposition Huskies after Northeastern’s 64-53 win at Delaware.

The visitors from Boston rode the three-ball on a hot night from the beyond the arc, connecting with 12 attempts to just one for Delaware (12-7, 5-3), which played from behind most of the evening.

The Blue Hens’ Nicole Enabosi added to her double double collection with 16 points and 12 rebounds while grabbing three steals.

Justina Mascaro scored 11 for the home team while Kiersten West had nine points.

Northeastern’s Jess Genco had 18 points and four of the 3-pointers along with seven assists while Claudia Ortiz had 14 points and also nailed four treys.

“My hat goes off to Northeastern,” said Delaware first-year coach Natasha Adair. “They’re a team that has really good discipline and team chemistry, but at the end of the day, when you look at the different stats we pretty much won every offensive statistical category except 3-point field goals.

“And you can’t trade threes for twos. We came out of the gate and they were on fire. We spotted them the first 23-12 (after one quarter) and whenever you give a team that much momentum, you’re constantly clawing your way back the whole game,” she said.

“We’re disappointed because you have to protect home court.”

UNCW visits on Sunday at 1 p.m., marking the first time former Old Dominion coach Karen Barefoot makes her return to play Delaware in conference competition as coach of the Seahawks.

The bigger storyline will be the first appearance in the Bob Carpenter Center by former longtime Blue Hens coach Tina Martin, who stepped down after last season and now is on Barefoot’s staff.

Villanova Slams Xavier

In the only other local game in D-1 on the Guru’s Friday night card, The Wildcats got their second half of Big East Conference competition off to a blazing start cruising over host Xavier 89-50 at the Musketeers’ Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

Villanova (16-5, 6-4 Big East) completed a sweep of the season series with Xavier (9-12, 2-8) shooting 37-of-60 from the field for 61.7 percent.

Going wire to wire in front, senior Alex Louin had a season-high 24 points off 9-of-14 from the field, including a 50 percent 5-for-10 on three-pointers.

Jannah Tucker had 12 points, shooting 5-for-5, including 2-for-2 on the three ball while Adrianna Hahn was perfection to get her 10 points with 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 on long range attempts.

Villanova, which is 10-1 all-time against Xavier, again stayed under double digits on miscues, committing just nine turnovers.

The Wildcats’ firepower was the best marksmanship by a Big East women’s team since Creighton was 37-60 on Jan. 11, 2014.

“We just had one of those nights where we made everey shot,” longtime Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “And then we had 10 threes at the half and we were able to get 50 points.

“That’s demoralizing for the other team. That’s what DePaul does to you. They come out and they make 10 or 11 threes and they just demoralize you.”

On Sunday Villanova will head to Butler at 1 p.m. in Indianapolis trying to get a split on the season after the Bulldogs had won at Villanova earlier this month.

Meanwhile, just two games are on the Guru’s local Saturday card. Rider will host Fairfield at 2 p.m. at Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., trying to get a sweep on the season series with the Stags in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Rutgers will try to get back on the winning track visiting Indiana in the Big 10. Just eight games are left on the Scarlet Knights’ regular season slate as Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer tries to get at least six of them to reach 1,000 career wins.

However, after meeting the Hoosiers, the next four are at Maryland, home against Michigan, at Ohio State and home against Maryland before finishing out visiting Wisconsin, hosting Iowa, and traveling to Northwestern.

And that’s your report.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Guru Report: Rider Rallies Over Winless Iona While Fordham’s Gaitley Gets 600th Win

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y.  — The latest Broncs Tale occurred just minutes from Bronx, N.Y., Thursday night where the Rider women ralied from an early 10-point deficit to defeat host Iona 62-49 here at the Hynes Athletic Center and avoid becoming the Gaels’ first overall victim of the season besides being the initial one in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). 

“I know the record now says they’re 0-20 but they’re really not that bad,” Rider veteran coach Lynn Milligan said afterwards. “Any road game in the MAAC is a rough one, but this one particularly had me a little worried.

“You look at their season and several games were lost in the closing minutes and Billi’s (Chambers) is a good coach. They’re just young.”

Rider (8-12, 5-4 MAAC) is also younger than the “Cinderella season” of a year ago and just recently began to get some traction that was halted with a tough loss in the Broncs’ most recent game, a 68-67 loss to host Marist not far from north of here in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

In that one the Red Foxes had 32 attempts at the foul line while Rider shot a mere 11 by comparison.

In this one Thursday night Iona (0-20, 0-9) surged to an 18-8 lead after one quarter as the visitors shot a paltry 3-for-15 from the field and committed five turnovers.

But Rider clamped down defensively over the next period to outscore the Gaels 20-6 and force eight turnovers to hit the break with a 28-24 lead and the Broncs never yielded the advantage the rest of the way.

By the end of the third quarter Rider was up 51-31 on the way to a third MAAC win on the road.

Rider’s sophomore sensation Stella Johnson just missed a double double scoring 16 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Freshman Jaiden Morris and senior Kamila Hoskova each scored 13 points.

Aubre Johnson had a career-high nine points and also had eight rebounds and a steal.

“I think we started slow, but we did a much better job defensively and spread the ball around well in the second and third quarters,” Milligan said.

“We lost a really tough game against Marist last time out and we gave them 25 points on the free throw line. Tonight, Iona only had one. We tried to focus on not letting Iona get in the bonus during any of the four quarters.”

Rider returns to Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., between Trenton and Princeton, on Saturday for another MAAC game hosting Fairfield at 2 p.m. 

The Broncs beat the Stags 61-45 earlier this month up in Fairfield, Conn.

Local Girl Collects Wins 

Since we are near the Bronx, we will go a little out of order ahead of the Guru’s other local game of the day, to note that former Villanova star Stephanie Gaitley picked up her 600th coaching win Thursday night guiding host Fordham to a 72-48 victory over St. Bonaventure in an Atlantic 10 game at Rose Hill Gymnasium.

Gaitley, who also celebrated her birthday, has also coached at Richmond, Saint Joseph’s, Long Island U., and Monmouth.

Fordham is in the A-10 regular season hunt with a 16-5 overall record and 7-1 in the conference one game behind in the loss column to Dayton and Duquesne.

G’mrice Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Rams while Mary Goulding score 15 points, Bre Cavanaugh scored 14, and Lauren Holden scored 10.

The Bonnies fell to 7-14 overall and 2-6 in the conference.

In her seven seasons at Fordham, Gaitley guided the Rams to the 2014 A-10 tournament title and is the all-time winningest coach, which occurred last season when she topped Kathy Mosolino.

Gaitley, nee Vanderslice and a native of Ocean City, N.J., has two sisters Courtney and Coco who also played Division I ball and during the 1981-82 season Courtney and Gaitley, who played on what was to become Villanova’s AIAW Final Four team, went against Coco’s FDU squad marking the first time in NCAA history three sisters played in the same game.

Fordham next travels to George Mason for an A-10 Sunday tilt in Fairfax, Va.

La Salle Rallies Over VCU

The Explorers edged VCU 62-57 in the Atlantic 10 matinee annual Kids Day game at TruMark Financial Center at Tom Gola Arena using a 14-0 run across the third and fourth quarters to erase an eight-point deficit.

Amy Griffin had 26 points for La Salle (7-13, 2-5 A-10) while Adreanna Miller scored 16 and Sofi Ngwafang scored 10 off the bench.

VCU fell to 4-15 overall and 1-6 in the conference.

La Salle next hosts Saint Joseph’s at 1 p.m. Sunday in the final overall Big Five game as well as the first of two home-and-home A-10 games between the two area schools.

Penn’s win at Temple Wednesday earned a tie at the top for both the Quakers and Villanova at 3-1.
Saint Joseph’s is 0-3 in the City Series while La Salle is 1-2. Temple finished 2-2.

Friday Night Lights

Just three games on the Guru’s local card for Friday with two involving games in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Drexel, currently in second place a game behind unbeaten James Madison in CAA competition will host defending CAA Tourney champ Elon at 7 p.m. at the Dragons’ Daskalakis Athletic Center to kick off homecoming weekend.

The Dragons on Sunday will host Northeastern at 2 p.m.

Delaware on Friday at 7 p.m. will host Northeastern in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark. The Blue Hens, alone in third, on Sunday will host UNCW at 1 p.m., marking the first appearance in Delaware of new Seahawks coach Karen Barefoot, formerly with Old Dominion, and assistant coach Tina Martin, formerly a longtime head coach of the Blue Hens.

Villanova starts the second part of its Big East schedule on the road visiting Xavier Friday at 7 in Cincinnati and then on Sunday heads to Butler at 1 p.m. in Indianapolis.

On Saturday just two games — the Rider game hosting Fairfield previously mentioned while Rutgers tries to get back on the winning track visiting Indiana at 1 p.m. in the Big 10.

Also on Sunday, Temple will try to shed a five-game losing streak when the Owls visit USF art noon on ESPNU in Tampa. 

Penn plays its last non-conference game hosting Division III Gwynedd Mercy at 1 p.m. in The Palestra. Penn State is at Purdue at noon in the Big 10.

And that’s the report.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Guru Report: Penn Women Make Good on Win at ‘Nova By Topping Temple to Share Big 5 Crown With Wildcats

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PHILADELPHIA — Most years when the Penn women list winning the Big Five title on the blackboard containing goals for the season, the City Series crown is usually the extra credit behind the Ivy regular season and, starting a year ago, the Ivy tournament championship leading to the NCAAs.

Heck, winning two Big Five games would be big enough considering all the years before Mike McLaughlin moved over from Division II powerhouse Holy Family in Northeast Philadelphia nine seasons ago.

In those days the La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, and, especially, Villanova fans could pencil in a “W” ahead the actual games with the landladies of The Palestra. 

But Wednesday night the Quakers got the Big Five icing ahead of another serving of the Ivy League cake which still has cooking time remaining from next weekend through mid-March.

Making good on last Wednesday’s last-second win at Villanova, the first over the Wildcats since 2001, Penn owned Super Big 5 night here in McGonigle Hall with a 74-59 wire-to-wire victory at Temple to earn a share of the City crown with the Wildcats at 3-1.

It is fitting because the two programs are probably the best women’s teams in the city right now and if you expand to local D-1s to the Philly Six, then add Drexel to the mix.

It is the second Big Five title for McLaughlin’s group, both shared, since 2015, both at 3-1, although this one is perhaps sweeter than the Quakers’ first-ever involvement.

On this go-round which culminated on McLaughlin’s birthday all three wins were on the road and had not Penn been ragged at La Salle in early December, it would have been an outright 4-0. The 2015 title was shared with Saint Joseph’s and Villanova.

Last week emerging from the excitement on the Main Line, McLaughlin talked about doing something really cool, but on Wednesday as the players here could be heard shouting for joy behind the locker room door, the Penn coach said, “It is so satisfying. We lost our first Big Five game at La Salle, didn’t play well, they outplayed us, and then come back and win all three, I want these guys to enjoy it.

“Some of these guys (most all) are not from the area so they don’t get the Big Five as much as I try to tell them about. I went them to celebrate it. Everytime we do something great, I want them to celebrate and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Former Saint Joseph’s star Natasha Cloud, a Cardinal O’Hara grad now a standout with the WNBA Washington Mystics, was in the crowd with a special attachment to a member of McLaughlin’s staff. 

“Had to come and see ‘Ash, my former teammate, win it,” Cloud smiled referring to Ashley Robinson, a recent Hawks mainstay.

Against the Owls (9-10, 2-2 Big Five), another Ash, Ashley Russell, was the star of the night, sending Penn to a 7-0 start with all seven of those points and the Quakers (10-5, 3-1)  never looked back and neither did Russell, who finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

She shot 8-for-13, and made three of her four attempts from long range.

“Ashley’s been great, she’s starting to come in her own comfort zone, she can score the ball when she wants to, she can shoot the three, she started us off tonight,” McLaughlin said.

  “She’s getting what she deserves. She’s getting an opportunity. She’s a really good role player, she’s a good teammate.”

Russell is from Braintree, Mass.

“It’s hugh for us,” Russell said of the win. “For us, my class, it’s our first and for hers, it’s her second,” alluding to Lauren Whitlatch, who had 11 points and also three of the 9 three-pointers completed by Penn.

“Every year, every Big Five game has always been hyped up and it’s always competitive,” Russell said. “It’s definitely different. And it’s so exciting to win, especially not on your home floor when you don’t have your crowd behind you.”

Whitlatch is well aware of the area lore having also played against local stars in the Philly Women’s Summer League in Hatboro, Pa., outside the city.

“The end result is what we wanted so we’re happy about that,” Whitlatch said. “It’s special. I’m from Bloomington, Ind., so I understand how special basketball is in the community.

“But coming here as a senior and understanding how special basketball is to the city of Philadelphia and what they mean to us and the support they’ve given us over the years, being able to win a Big 5 for them and the community is very special.

“We’ll take a couple more from them,” Whitlatch nudged toward her younger teammates. “Raising the bar.”

Penn forced Temple into 16 turnovers and outscored the Owls 40-28 inside the paint.

The inside force put Temple in a pick-your-poison mode on defense with senior Michelle Nwokedi, the reigning Ivy player of the year, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds, and dealing three assists and blocking a shot.

Then there’s the newbie, Eleah Parker, the 6-4 freshman center from Charlotte, who had 16 points, eight rebounds, blocked three shots and grabbed two steals.

Parker has been named Ivy co-player of the week and freshman of the week two straight times after Monday’s league release and has picked up five rookie awards in her first season. 

On Tuesday, she became only the second player to earn national freshman of the week twice in the same season from the United States Basketball Writers Association, who began handing out the newcomer award in 2014-15 when Notre Dame’s Brianna Turner was a multi-winner.

Temple coach Tonya Cardoza praised the Penn rookie in terms of players she’s seen spending 15 seasons as a UConn assistant and also in the city in what is now a decade here on North Broad Street.

“No disrespect to Sydney Stipanovich, no disrespect to Michelle Nwokedi, she’s really, really good,” Cardoza said. “I think she’s going to be a force for them. She’s a freshman and she can really do a lot.

“She’s really good at just jumping over people and she can change the game on the defensive side because she’s a great shot blocker as well. But she’s going to be a force for the next couple of years.”

The Quakers have had their best Big Five record against Temple, although way behind also in that series, which now stands at 15-35.

Penn is off until Sunday, hosting Division III Gwynedd Mercy at 1 p.m. in The Palestra and then resumes defense of its two-time Ivy titles the following weekend traveling to Brown and Yale.

Meanwhile, for Temple, playing just three days after hosting the first of its two American Conference games against top-ranked Connecticut, the loss to the Quakers extend the Owls’ slide to five straight and seven of eight.

And the next game Sunday doesn’t offer a lot of hope for victory considering it’s in the Sunshine State in Tampa at South Florida (12 p.m., ESPNU-TV), though things alleviate schedule-wise the rest of the way.

One could blame recovering from the UConn experience, one could look at the injury situation, though there’s some improvement with the return of freshman Desiree Oliver, who in her second game back had 14 points and five assists while also shooting 4-of-7 three balls.

But Cardoza wasn’t having any of it not wanting to look at the easy available set of excuses, especially since a Temple win would have enabled the Owls to do the Big Five sharing at 3-1 on the heels of last season’s 4-0 outright title.

She talked about not getting stops, failing to chase shooters, and the way the posts needed to be defended.

It was the second missed opportunity since all seemed loss when the Owls fell to Villanova, then nationally ranked, last month 69-65, a score close enough that Temple would have had three wins in the Big Five bank before Penn arrived Wednesday night on the short trip from West Philadelphia.

“Hats off to Penn. They came in here and with a championship on the line, on our home court, they just took it right to us,” Cardoza said. “By beating Villanova, it opened up a door for us but it also opened up a door for them and they took advantage of it.

“It’s just disappointing that we let that opportunity slip away. Mike’s done a really good job with them and they took advantage of us not being able to sit down and defend and guard them the way they needed to be guarded.

“It was just lack of concentration and focus on how to defend them.”

Tanaya Atkinson did her thing for Temple with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Mia Davis had 11 points and eight rebounds.

Duquesne Dusts Saint Joseph’s

Over on Hawk Hill, given a chance to regain influence in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Saint Joseph’s, which became shorthanded with a one game absence of Chelsea Woods and Alyssa Monaghan, fell to Duquesne 61-42 at Hagan Arena.

The Dukes, which along with Dayton are the remaining unbeaten teams in conference play, used a 15-0 run in the second quarter to dominate the Hawks (9-10, 4-3 A-10), which shot a season low 25.4 percent from the field.

It was the first-win ever at Saint Joseph’s for Duquesne (17-3, 7-0).

Sarah Veilleux was the sole player in double figures for the Hawks with 12 points.

Duquesne’s Julijana Vojinovic had a game-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Paige Cannon scored 13 and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Saint Joseph’s next goes to La Salle Sunday at 1 p.m. at Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center in what will be the first of two A-10 games in the home-and-home series and last overall Big Five game.

After Wednesday night’s game at Temple, the Big Five standings are Penn 3-1 tied; Villanova 3-1 tied; Temple 2-2, La Salle 1-2, Saint Joseph’s 0-3.

Looking Ahead

La Salle has a noon game Thursday hosting VCU in the Atlantic 10 while Thursday night Rider travels to Iona at 7 in New Rochelle, N.Y., for a game in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

On Friday, Drexel, alone in second in the Colonial Athletic Association, hosts defending conference tournament champion Elon at 7 while Delaware, which slipped to third, hosts Northeastern at 7 in the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Villanova begins second-half schedule play in the Big East visiting Xavier in Cincinnati at 7.

On Saturday, Rider hosts Fairfield at 2 p.m. in Alumni Gym for a MAAC matchup in Lawrenceville, N.J., while Rutgers tries to get back on track visiting Indiana at Bloomington at 2 p.m. in the Big 10.

For Sunday, we’ll wait until we get to Friday’s roundup to go over the details.

And that’s the report.

Postgame Scout: Penn Women Earns Their Way to Big Five Co-Championship

Guru’s note: Postgame Scout was on the scene to report the strategy as Penn and Temple battled for a piece of the Big Five title.

By Postgame Scout

PHILADELPHIA — The best of Big Five basketball was on full display Wednesday night as the Penn Quakers traveled across town to the McGonigle Hall to battle the Temple Owls for a share of the Big Five Title.


The tone was set early. 

Penn’s Ashley Russell smoothly stroked the ball and drained a 3.  Temple’s scoring ace Tanaya Atkinson grabbed the ball and drove to the hoop only to have her forward progress abruptly halted by Penn’s dynamic forwards Eleah Parker and Michelle Nwokedi.  


Penn had the lead and did not relinquish it for the remaining 39 minutes and 30 seconds.  


Penn’s 2-2-1 zonpress slowed down the Owls transition game forcing Temple to play in the half court.  

 The Quakers’ defense denied Temple all access to the paint as Penn’s strong and skilled post blocked 7 shots. 

Without dribble penetration the Owls at times were stagnate and the Quakers forced 16 turnover.


Temple did cut Penn’s lead to 8 when the Owls Coach Tonya Cardoza moved Tanaya Atkinson inside. 

This forced Penn to focus on Atkinson’s cutting through the paint, freeing up Desiree Oliver to hit her 3s.  


As the game progressed, Temple seemed offensively out of sync.  They passed the ball in the opposite direction of their baseline movement.  This made Penn’s zone defense more effective.


Penn was poised against Temple’s pressure defense.  

The Owls could not disrupt Penn’s offensive flow.  The Quakers pounded the ball inside scoring 40 of their 74 points in the paint, while their designated 3 point shooters took full advantage of Temple’s collapsing defense.


Speaking of designated 3 point shooters, Penn’s Ashley Russell scored 19 points while shooting 61.5% from the floor and 75% from 3.  She grabbed 9 rebounds and was in the middle of most plays on both ends of the floor.


The Quakers had 20 assists with just 9 turnovers making this a very efficient offensive performance. 


Penn controlled the tempo of this game from the opening stanza.  

They were poised and determined running their sets despite Temple’s ball pressure.  

They deserve to be Big Five co-champions.